Joanna Dennehy: The girl from a loving home who became a serial killer

The chilling story of Joanna Dennehy, a multiple murderer who persuaded two men to assist her spree, can finally be told

For a woman who professed to kill for fun, the business of murder for Joanna Dennehy was an intensely serious act. As she lifted the knife like Norman Bates in Psycho and plunged it into her final victim, she showed little emotion and appeared not to enjoy herself. “Oh, look, you’re bleeding,” she told John Rogers, who nearly died from his wounds. “I’d better do some more.”

Dennehy, 31, is unique in the roll call of British multiple killers. She does not fit the Myra Hindley or Rose West model of accomplice to a more dominant partner. She is not a classic serial killer who disengaged after a kill to re-enter normal life, before murdering again. And she was not doing it for money.

But in killing three men and seriously wounding two others over 14 days of carnage, her behaviour is more like a slow-burning spree killer with each death triggering the next. Afterwards, she celebrated by pointing out a body in a wheelie-bin like a trophy. After killing her third victim, she phoned up a friend to sing the Britney Spears song “Oops... I Did It Again”.

“She didn’t realise how bizarre that behaviour was,” said Professor David Wilson, an expert on serial killers. “The dividing line between fantasy and reality had become utterly blurred.”

The first accounts of Dennehy’s descent from a loved child in a stable home to murderous killer can be told for the first time after two of her accomplices were convicted for helping to cover up her crimes. But her decision to plead guilty in November means that her reasons for the attacks are not yet fully understood.

However it appears clear that the mother-of-two was seeking notoriety as a serial killer. She danced a jig of delight after seeing a television news report about the killings that started on 19 March last year when she stabbed the Pole Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, who made the fatal error of thinking he had met a girlfriend in Dennehy.

A knife used by Joanna Dennehy in the attacks (PA) A knife used by Joanna Dennehy in the attacks (PA)
Ten days later, she killed John Chapman, 56, in his bedsit at the block in Peterborough that she shared. He too was stabbed in the heart after being accused of seeing Dennehy in the bath and a photograph was taken of his body. On the same day, she murdered Kevin Lee, 48, her landlord and lover who was said to have become obsessed with her.

In a last act of cruelty, she dressed him in a black dress before dumping his body in ditch like the other two men. However, Dennehy was not satisfied and desired to kill again.

With her friend Gary Stretch, a 7ft 3in unsuccessful career burglar, she drove to his home town of Hereford. They stopped at a friend’s house where she told a witness: “I’m a killer. I’ve killed three people, Gary helped dispose of them and I want to do some more. I want some fun. You’ve had your fun Gary, I want some fun now.”

Gary 'Stretch' Richards and Leslie Layton aided Dennehy (PA) Gary 'Stretch' Richards and Leslie Layton aided Dennehy (PA)
Driven around the streets, she identified two men whom she attacked and left for dead. Both survived and gave evidence at the trial of Stretch and another man, Leslie Layton, who were both convicted of failing to prevent a lawful burial and perverting the course of justice. Asked what he would like to say to Dennehy, John Rogers, the last of the victims, said: “Why? Why did you do it?”

Dennehy was a pathological liar. She routinely claimed she had served time for murdering her father after years of abuse, which was a lie. Her father, Kevin, a security guard, is alive and well. Neither he, nor her mother Kathleen, had ever been investigated over such claims. Her family say she had a happy and loving childhood in Hertfordshire, but descended into drink and drugs as a teenager. “I think the people, the drugs and the environment she went into triggered something dark inside her,” her sister Maria told The Mail on Sunday.

Victims: (From left) Lukasz Slaboszewski; John Chapman and Kevin Lee Victims: (From left) Lukasz Slaboszewski; John Chapman and Kevin Lee
She left home at 15 and began a turbulent relationship with John Treanor, a man five years older than her, with whom she had two children. The pair’s relationship – marked by frequent disputes, violence by Dennehy and long separations – ended only after Mr Treanor took the children away, complaining of her violence. He has since remarried and lives with his wife and the two girls, aged 13 and seven, in Glossop, Derbyshire.

After the break-up, she moved to Peterborough where she began living in a bedsit owned by one of her victims, Kevin Lee, and acted as his enforcer and did odd-jobs in return for her rent.

She was admitted to a psychiatric unit in Peterborough a year before the murder spree, where she was diagnosed with a series of psychopathic and other disorders. She claimed to suffer from depression and had a history of self-harm.

Her stomach was flecked with pronounced scars from where she had slashed herself with razor blades. The scarring was revealed in pictures that she posed for before her final stabbing spree in Hereford that she likened to the last stand of Bonnie and Clyde, who were shot dead by police after killing nine people. She is due to be sentenced at a later date along with the three men she cajoled into helping her.

“If she is a psychopath, she will like to have the attention on her,” said Dr Lundrigan, a senior lecturer in criminology at Anglia Ruskin University. “Once the limelight is gone, she may feel compelled to offer some kind of explanation in order to keep the focus on her.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?